Lack of testing kits

News Digest (June 11 – June 17, 2020)

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Domestic Politics

Constitutional Amendment Bill in the Federal Parliament: The Janata Samajwadi Party (JSP) decided to vote in the favor of constitutional amendment that aims to revise the national emblem to include Nepal’s new political map containing Lipulekh, Limpiyadhura, and Kalapani.[1]

The Party warned that it would punish MP Sarita Giri if she did not back down from her constitutional amendment registration against the government’s amendment bill, which JSP decided to support.[2]

On June 13, the Lower House of the federal parliament unanimously voted in the favor of the government’s constitutional amendment bill, paving the way for revising the national emblem to include Nepal’s new map in the constitution.[3]

NCP co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal assured that the land lost during Monarchy will be reclaimed by the Republic Nepal.[4] Expressing his support for the amendment bill, the Nepali Congress president Sher Bahadur Deuba said that all Nepalis have shown a formidable national unity on the matter of national interest.[5]

Speaking in the Lower House during the amendment bill discussion, the JSP leader Rajendra Mahato expressed his party’s support for the government’s bill and warned all to never doubt the nationality and patriotism of the Madhesi people.[6] On the same account, JSP president Upendra Yadav claimed that everyone who signed for the Mahakali Treaty should publicly apologize to Nepali people.[7]

After being endorsed by the Lower House, the constitution amendment bill was tabled in the Upper House of the parliament.[8]

The ruling NCP has asked clarification from its four lawmakers who skipped the Lower House meeting that endorsed the constitutional amendment bill. A total of 11 MPs had missed the historic meeting.[9]

The Protests: The Home Ministry warned to punish the protestors if they continue their anti-government protest and gather ‘unnecessary’ crowds; according to the Infectious Disease Act 2020, the protesters will be fined between NRs 100 to 600 and face up to six months charge in prison.[10]

Despite the growing protests throughout the country, the ruling NCP has remained silent on the issue.[11] Nepali Congress has reiterated its demands with the government—to stop using the RDT and to make PCR testing mandatory for people leaving quarantine facilities.[12] The NC warned that the party will join the youths in protest if the government continues to ignore their demands.[13]

Five foreign nationals who were arrested from a protest in Kathmandu have been banned to enter Nepal for two years.[14]

The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC): NC Spokesperson Bishwaprakash Sharma said that it is baseless to claim that the US army will storm into Nepal if MCC is passed.[15]Citing health issues, prime minister and NCP co-chair Oli called off the secretariat meeting that was scheduled to discuss about the MCC.[16]

The Kalapani Border Dispute: Suggesting that he still maintains good relationship with his college-time friends in Delhi, Dr Baburam Bhattarai expressed his willingness to facilitate the Nepal-India dialogue on the Kalapani border dispute.[17]

Naturalization Law: Nepali Congress has showed its readiness to harden on the issue of (marriage) naturalization law, alienating the Madhes-based JSP. The NC seems ready to support the proposed 7-year period of continued residence before a foreign woman married to a Nepali man can apply for a naturalized citizenship.[18]

Governance

The Supreme Court orders the government to repatriate the stranded Nepali workers: The division bench of Justice Ananda Mohan Bhattarai and Hari Prasad Phuyal in the Supreme Court ordered the government to use Foreign Employment Fund to rescue Nepali migrant workers who have been stranded in various countries and are willing to return home amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The order was passed against the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers over the latter’s decision to operate the rescue flights at the expense of the migrant workers.[19]

PM assures investigation into reported irregularities in COVID-19 response: Prime Minister Oli assured that the government would launch an investigation into reported financial irregularities in the country’s COVID-19 response. He briefed that he was closely watching the expenses made in the process, assuring action would be taken if anyone was found to be embezzling any penny from the state coffers. PM Oli also reiterated that Nepalis have stronger immunity.[20]

Six government officials held with bribe: The Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA), on June 16 during a sting operation, arrested six individuals including an officer of Land Revenue Office with a bribe of Rs 850.000. The arrested include Officer Raghubansa Kandel.[21]

Nepal needs 1.5 million jobs to avoid unemployment crisis – government task force: A task force formed to study the impact of COVID-19 on foreign employment sector and the economy said that the country needs to create 1.5 million jobs, more than double the target set by the government, to avoid an imminent unemployment crisis; however, the government announced plans to create 700,000 job in the fiscal year 2020-21. Shankar Sharma, former vice-chairman of the National Planning Commission, said the government would struggle creating 700,000 new jobs in a year, let alone 1.5 million.[22]

New map endorsed unanimously at the Lower House: The House of Representatives, on June 13, unanimously endorsed the second amendment to the constitution of Nepal to update the country’s new political map, laying claim over the strategically key areas of Lipulekh, Kalapani and Limpiyadhura along the border with India in the national emblem. All258 lawmakers present in the meeting voted for the bill. Speaker Agni Sapkota announced that the bill had been endorsed by more than a two-thirds majority. The Bill now needs to be endorsed by the National Assembly and authenticated by the President before it comes into effect. The NA will have to give lawmakers 72 hours to move amendments against the bill’s provisions, if any. After the National Assembly passes the bill, it will be submitted to the President for authentication, after which the bill will be incorporated into the Constitution.[23]

International Relations & Foreign Policy

Foreign Minister Gyawali speaks with British and Canadian counterparts: Minister of Foreign Affairs Pradeep Gyawali held a telephonic conversation with Minister for Foreign Affairs of Canada François-Philippe Champagne. Minister Gyawali also spoke with Minister of State for the Commonwealth and United Nations at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of Britain Lord Ahmad separately. All the meetings focused on the current COVID-19 pandemic and steps taken by respective governments to mitigate the spread. The British and Canadian Ministers offered to support the Nepalis living in the United Kingdom and Canada.[24]

Indian National Congress stresses on diplomacy: The Indian National Congress (INC) has emphasized that the Kalapani border dispute must be resolved through dialogue. Chairperson of INC’s Foreign Affairs Department and State Assembly leader Anand Sharma reiterated on Nepal-India relationship that the two countries have shared for years. Sharma also acknowledged the huge investments both the countries have made to nurture and promote strategic partnership and therefore, have established a bilateral mechanism to resolve any dispute through negotiations. Sharma said the dispute should be addressed at the earliest.[25]

India extends financial aid for sanitation facility: A MoU has been signed amongst the Embassy of India, Ministry of Federal Affairs and General Administration, and the Kathmandu Metropolitan City to facilitate the construction of a sanitation facility in the Pashupati Temple area. The project is to be funded under the Nepal-Bharat Maitri: Development Partnership as a High Impact Community Development Project. India has extended Rs 37.23 million for the same.[26]

Indian Media calls out Nepal: Nepal recently unanimously passed the constitutional amendment bill, after which India Media claims that despite New Delhi’s attempt to hold talks, the Bill was passed. Furthermore, the media expressed whether the KP Oli government creates a ‘conducive atmosphere’ and ‘positive situation’. According to Indian sources, Delhi had requested Nepal to pause the parliamentary process and hold dialogue. However, Nepal claimed that it was still waiting for India’s response on the diplomatic note.[27]

Ministry of Home Affairs collects fees for visa renewal: Ministry of Home Affairs decided to collect visa renewal fees from the tourists stranded in Nepal. However, the Ministry has also agreed to renew the visas free of cost ‘within seven days after the lockdown ends’. Department of immigration has charged USD 3 per day for tourists who have been in Nepal for approximately three months. The government has faced massive criticism from all embassies following this policy. Some embassies have questioned that while other countries are providing amnesty to Nepalis, why is Nepal levying the charge on tourists. Finally, after much criticism, Director-General of the Immigration Department Ram Chandra Tiwari decided to roll back the decision.[28]

Security

Government forms expert group to collect evidence on the Nepal-India border: Spokesperson of the government and Minister for Finance, Communications and Information Technology Yubaraj Khatiwada informed that an expert group has been formed to collect evidence on the Nepal-India border. According to him, the expert group has been formed under the coordination of Bishnu Raj Upreti, Chairman of the Policy Research Institute.[29]

One Indian national killed and two injured when APF opened fire at Nepal-India border: A man was killed and two others were injured when the Armed Police Force deployed for border security opened fire at a crowd that allegedly tried to attack the security personnel in Parsa Rural Municipality, Sarlahi, on June 12. Eyewitnesses said the incident happened after four Indian traders who were turned away by the security personnel from the border returned with hundreds of people and began protesting violently.[30]

National Human Rights Commission reports say quarantine facilities are turning into COVID-19 incubators: The National Human Rights Commission has said that quarantine centers are highly mismanaged and increase the risk of transmission of the virus rather than preventing it. In its report, the commission said that not only do the quarantine facilities not meet the minimum standards of the WHO, they have become hotspots for spreading the disease.

National tally crosses 6,500 as Nepal confirms 19th Covid-19 death: On June 14, Nepal reported its 19th casualty from COVID-19.[31] Two days later, on June 16, the national tally of COVID-19 cases reached 6,591. According to the Health Ministry, people from 73 districts have now contracted the virus. While Manang, Mustang, Okhaldhunga and Rasuwa are the only districts that have no reported cases so far.[32]

Individuals in quarantine facilities complain about delayed test results and fear of transmission: The quarantined individuals in facilities of the Gandaki Province have complained that one has to stay in the facilities for about five weeks due to the delayed PCR test results. They have been demanding their test results at the earliest so they can return home. According to the data of the Provincial Health Directorate, as of June 13, 2,522 people in the province are yet receive their test results, and the delay is because of the increase in swab collection.[33]

Provincial and Local Governments

Coronavirus Response: The COVID-19 Crisis Management Committee (CMC) decided to make isolation centers for Coronavirus-infected persons at private medical colleges and government buildings. The Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) will manage the expenses for the centers. The government will provide the necessary budget to the provincial and district levels’ CMC to the COVID-19 response. CMC has also directed the local government to put people only to the capacity of the quarantine.[34]

On June 13, the Ministry of Health and Population, in its regular Coronavirus briefing, informed that private labs can also conduct PCR tests for Coronavirus for free and the government will reimburse the labs. The government also informed Bir Hospital, Tribhuvan University Technical Hospital, and Patan Hospital to issue certificates that people do not have Coronavirus so that they can apply for visas.[35]

Sudurpaschim Pradesh sent 26 asymptomatic people home from quarantines without any testing due to lack of kits. According to the new rules of the provincial health directorate, asymptomatic people who have stayed in the quarantine for 14 days and do not show any COVID-19 symptoms could return home. Earlier, the infected patients were discharged only after tested PCR.[36] 

Karnali Pradesh is facing shortages of human resources in health sectors amidst the COVID-19 response. The province has 50 specialist doctors quota but only 33 of them are on duty.[37]

On June 15, the District Administration Office (DAO), Kathmandu, notified that the local level’s permission was mandatory to enter Kathmandu and that people should apply in the DAO to leave for Kathmandu.[38] 

Provincial government unveil their annual budget: On June 15, all seven provincial governments presented their annual budgets for the upcoming fiscal year 2077/78. The combined budget of all seven provinces comes to Rs 264.20 billion. The budget mainly focused on control of Coronavirus, development, job creation, and agriculture. Out of the total budget, Rs 113.44 billion has been allocated for the current expenditure and Rs 139.48 billion for capital expenditure.[39]

Province 5 increased its facilities: The government of Province 5 increased local representatives’ facilities by amending the law. Now, local officials and representatives can take facilities under 14 different headings such as transportations, water, electricity, telephone, internet, hospitality, public relations, fuel, maintenance, festival expenses, meeting allowance, etc.[40]

Gender, Social Inclusion, Human Rights, and Migration

Rukum Incident: Rukum District Attorney Office filed charges of homicide, attempted homicide, and caste-based discrimination on 34 people for their alleged involvement in killings of six youths in Soti village, Rukum. The DAO charged them based on findings of the police investigation report submitted on June 12.[41]

Repatriation of migrant workers: As many as 299 women migrant workers were repatriated from Kuwait via Jazeera Airways on June 11. They will stay at a quarantine for which they will bear the costs themselves.[42] Similarly, 166 Nepalis were repatriated from Oman via SalamAir flight on June 15.[43]

Woman sexually assaulted in Kailali quarantine: Nepal Police arrested three men charged with allegedly raping a woman in a quarantine facility in Kailali district on June 14.[44] Following the incident, members of the National Assembly demanded gender friendly quarantine hall, health workers and police officers. Nepali Congress also issued a press statement demanding punishment for those involved.[45] [46]

Musahar Man dies in police custody: On June 10, 23-year-old Sambhu Sada was found dead in prison in Sabaila municipality police station, Dhanusha district. Sada had surrendered to the police after his tractor killed a woman and injured another person. The police said that he committed suicide, but his friends and family are now accusing the police of murder. Protests are ongoing in Janakpur demanding fair investigation of Sada’s death.[47]

Image by fernando zhiminaicela from Pixabay


[1] https://www.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/45249/2020-06-12

[2] https://www.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/45126/2020-06-11

[3] https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/parliament-unanimously-endorses-constitution-amendment-bill-endorsing-nepal-s-new-map-that-includes-kalapani-lipu-lekh-and-limpiyadhura/

[4] https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/land-lost-during-monarchy-is-being-retrieved-by-republican-government-ncp-chair-dahal/

[5] https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/lawmaker-mahato-urges-not-to-cast-doubt-on-the-nationalism-of-madhesi-people/

[6] https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/lawmaker-mahato-urges-not-to-cast-doubt-on-the-nationalism-of-madhesi-people/

[7] https://deshsanchar.com/2020/06/13/369886/

[8] https://deshsanchar.com/2020/06/14/370213/

[9] https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/ruling-ncp-seeks-clarification-from-its-lawmakers-skipping-historic-house-meeting-that-passed-constitution-amendment-bill-to-update-nepal-s-map/

[10] https://deshsanchar.com/2020/06/11/369061/

[11] https://kathmandupost.com/politics/2020/06/13/silence-in-ruling-party-as-protests-rage-but-it-may-be-the-calm-before-storm-leaders-say

[12] https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/nc-asks-govt-to-stop-use-of-rdt-make-pcr-tests-mandatory-for-those-leaving-quarantine-facilities/

[13] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/06/16/congress-vows-to-take-to-the-streets-alongside-politically-unaffiliated-youths

[14] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/06/17/five-foreigners-detained-over-saturday-s-protest-banned-from-entering-nepal-for-two-years-1592362012

[15] https://www.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/45387/2020-06-14

[16] https://kathmandupost.com/politics/2020/06/14/ruling-nepal-communist-party-holding-secretariat-meeting-to-discuss-the-mcc

[17] https://www.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/45446/2020-06-15

[18] https://deshsanchar.com/2020/06/16/371512/

[19] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/06/17/supreme-court-orders-government-to-use-welfare-fund-to-repatriate-nepali-workers-stranded-abroad

[20] https://english.onlinekhabar.com/pm-assures-probe-into-reported-irregularities-in-covid-19-response.html

[21] https://english.khabarhub.com/2020/17/105138/

[22] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/06/10/government-task-force-says-nepal-needs-1-5-million-jobs-to-avoid-unemployment-crisis

[23] https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/defence/nepals-parliament-unanimously-passes-bill-to-redraw-political-map/articleshow/76359045.cms

[24] https://english.khabarhub.com/2020/12/103902/

[25] https://english.khabarhub.com/2020/11/103638/

[26] https://english.khabarhub.com/2020/15/104819/

[27] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/06/16/new-delhi-is-trying-to-reach-out-to-kathmandu-for-talks-reports-indian-media

[28] https://english.khabarhub.com/2020/16/105082/

[29] https://english.khabarhub.com/2020/11/103729/

[30] https://english.khabarhub.com/2020/12/103925/

[31] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/06/14/nepal-reports-one-more-covid-19-death-425-new-cases-national-tally-climbs-to-5-760

[32] https://kathmandupost.com/health/2020/06/16/health-ministry-confirms-380-new-covid-19-cases-on-tuesday

[33] https://kathmandupost.com/gandaki-province/2020/06/14/delay-in-pcr-test-results-compels-many-to-remain-in-quarantine-for-longer-period 

[34] https://www.onlinekhabar.com/2020/06/873163

[35] https://english.onlinekhabar.com/govt-allows-pvt-labs-to-conduct-pcr-tests-medical-colleges-to-be-used-as-isolation-centres.html

[36] https://www.onlinekhabar.com/2020/06/873340

[37] https://english.khabarhub.com/2020/15/104206/

[38] https://www.karobardaily.com/news/country

[39] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/06/16/provinces-announce-budgets-with-strong-focus-on-health-and-employment

[40] https://www.onlinekhabar.com/2020/06/873409?utm_source=Facebook&utm_medium=FBpage1&fbclid=IwAR1RSoAe7i2wN7ZBJjL2Xx9AoUNIIL9mY4NRJG31IBxvtE6RlBEMC1Yh9Ts

[41] https://kathmandupost.com/karnali-province/2020/06/14/cases-filed-against-34-people-demanding-life-imprisonment-for-dalit-youth-killings-in-soti

[42] https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/299-nepali-women-brought-home-from-kuwait/

[43] https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/166-stranded-nepalis-repatriated-from-oman/

[44] https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/three-arrested-in-connection-with-kailali-quarantine-gang-rape-lamkichuha-suspends-quarantine-services/

[45]  https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/nc-condemns-rape-in-kailali-quarantine/

[46] https://www.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/45486/2020-06-16

[47] https://kathmandupost.com/province-no-2/2020/06/14/in-custody-death-of-a-musahar-man-sparks-protests-in-janakpur

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